Keeping Your Child Calm For Their Dental Visit At Burke Dental

It’s no secret that the habits and fears we develop as children often carry over into adulthood, and visiting the dentist is no exception. Research published in the International Journal of Dentistry suggests that dental anxiety in childhood often persists into adulthood, leading to a cycle of dental avoidance. For this reason, dental anxiety in children should be addressed at a young age so they continue seeking dental care without fear for the rest of their lives.

Underscoring the importance of children visiting their dentist on a regular basis despite the anxiety it may cause is the fact that nearly one in five children under the age of 5 has experienced dental decay, and nearly half of children aged 6–11.

Visiting the dentist is a critical part of maintaining good oral health for children, but the experience often induces fear and anxiety—leading to avoidance of dental care. Thankfully, there are proven strategies to help children overcome their dental fears, remain calm for their visits, and carry those coping strategies into adulthood.

Dental Visit At Burke Dental

Why Are Children Afraid Of The Dentist?

First, it’s important to understand why dental anxiety is so common in children. For many, it’s fear of the unknown. The dentist’s office is an unfamiliar and intimidating place for young kids, considering the various instruments, drilling noises, and the idea of someone examining their mouth. The fear could also stem from a negative experience that left a lasting impression on the child and now causes apprehension for future visits. Parent influence is also a potential factor if parents display or communicate negative attitudes and perceptions of their own dental visits.

Consequences Of Avoiding The Dentist

It’s tempting to avoid the dentist altogether when your child is fearful and you know they won’t remain calm for the visit. However, it’s important to address dental anxiety since the consequences of avoiding dental care can be severe.

Dental Avoidance Can Lead To The Following:

  • Increased dental problems, such as cavities, leading to pain, infection, and difficulty eating or speaking
  • Tooth loss due to dental issues that go untreated, possibly affecting a child’s ability to eat, speak, and smile confidently
  • Compromised overall health since oral health is closely linked, such as heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory infections
  • Psychological effects that extend beyond dental visits, leading to lifelong phobias that prevent adults from seeking necessary dental and medical care in adulthood

Consequences Of Avoiding The Dentist

Effective Strategies For Reducing Dental Anxiety In Children

The most effective strategy for reducing dental anxiety in children is introducing them to regular dentist visits at a young age. This should occur around their first birthday, with a short initial visit that is non-invasive, friendly, and helps your child understand the dental environment. Other strategies include:

  • Use Positive Reinforcement – Positive reinforcement encourages your child’s cooperation. Offer small rewards or praise for good behavior during dental visits. This can help create positive associations with the dentist.
  • Educate and Prepare – Talk to your child in advance about what to expect during a dental visit. Use age-appropriate language to explain what will happen so there are no surprises. There are children’s books and videos available that can help demystify the process.
  • Practice at Home – Play dentist at home with your child using a toy dental kit. This can help your child become more familiar with the tools and procedures used at the dentist’s office, and they’ll associate it with something fun.
  • Use Relaxation Techniques – Teach your child relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or visualization to use during dental appointments. These techniques can help reduce anxiety and make the experience more bearable.
  • Accompany Your Child – Nothing brings a child more comfort than the presence of a parent. Whenever possible, accompany your child into the treatment room to provide reassurance.
  • Explore Sedation Options – In cases of extreme dental anxiety or for complex procedures, discuss sedation options with your dentist. Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) or oral sedation can help calm a nervous child.
  • Schedule Regular Check-Ups – Consistent dental check-ups can help prevent dental problems from becoming serious. When children see the dentist regularly, they are less likely to experience painful issues that increase anxiety.

Dental anxiety in children can have long-term consequences on their oral health if not addressed and resolved. However, with the right strategies and a supportive approach, parents can help their children overcome their fears and develop positive dental habits that they’ll carry into adulthood. A visit to the dentist doesn’t have to be a scary experience. It can be a positive and educational one that sets the foundation for a lifetime of good oral health.

Contact us if you would like to learn more about keeping children calm for dentist appointments.